Highlighting one of the many unintended consequences of Covid-19 control, CEO of The Fladgate Partnership, Adrian Bridge, said that social distancing measures could preclude the foot-treading of grapes for vintage Port production.
Commenting on Friday about this year’s harvest in the Douro during an online launch event for Taylor’s 2018 Vintage Port, Bridge expressed his concerns about how, with social distancing measures in place in Portugal, he could have workers lined-up treading grapes in lagares – the open, wide containers used for crushing the berries for Port.
“We will be challenged [by physical distancing] in 2020, and we are making careful steps to see what we can do to run a harvest,” he said, adding that due to the proximity of foot treaders in lagares, it is something “we may not want to do for the safety of our workers.”
As a result, Bridge said that he was “rapidly mechanising our Vargellas winery so we can use it,” referring to the installation of mechanical means of crushing the grapes at the winery where Taylor’s vintage Ports are made.
He also said that an absence of foot-treading for this year’s harvest could ensure that Taylor’s won’t be able to make a classic vintage Port.
“I believe that treading the grapes adds an extra 1.5-2% to the quality [of the wine], so the fact that I think there will be no foot-treading because of physical distancing means that there probably won’t be one [a classic vintage declaration] for 2020,” he explained, adding, “One of the factors we regard as important for quality won’t be happening.”
Speaking more generally, he said that The Fladgate Partnership – which owns Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft brands – was “investing now in very detailed harvest planning because of the coronavirus.”
It was also because Bridge believes that this year’s harvest in the Douro “could be the earliest on record”.
He explained, “It’s been an unusual year so far, with bud burst happening on 3 March, when the average in the Douro is March 15, so we are about two weeks ahead, which is actually further ahead than the 2016 harvest.”
Continuing, he said, “If the viticultural cycle continues then we will be harvesting in late August, which would be the earliest [start date] on record.”
Referring to an anomalous springtime snow flurry in the Douro, as previously reported on by db, he said that such weather extremes “reminds us that climate change is still with us”, even though our attention is currently focused on dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.
Finally, he said that he was increasing the amount of accommodation for the temporary workers needed to bring in the harvest to allow for more distance between them, while commenting that he was also rethinking how people work at the company on the “other side of coronavirus”.
In keeping with tradition, The Fladgate Partnership chose St. George’s Day to release a trio of Ports from the 2018 vintage from its Taylor’s, Fonseca and Croft brands.